Sunday, August 7, 2011

Legend of the Day

leg·end [lej-uhnd]  
A nonhistorical or unverifiable story handed down by tradition from earlier times and popularly accepted as historical.

If you've been reading this blog you can probably tell that there are a lot of legends associated with Prague.  A lot!  So I figured it's about time I started telling you some of them.  Beginning right now...

The Twenty-Seven Beheaded Bohemian Lords
Old Town Square

Twenty-seven white crosses on the paving in Old Town Square commemorate one of the saddest events in Czech history. 

 On this spot, 27 Czech Protestants were beheaded in 1621 by the Habsburgs; an event that ended the first phase of the Thirty Years' War and began the return of Bohemia to Catholicism

It was here, on the 21st of June in 1621, that the Czech lords who had led the Rebellion of the Estates against Emperor Ferdinand II were executed.  Ten noblemen, five Prague burghers and two burghers from Kutná Hora  and Žatec were all beheaded by the Prague executioner Mydlář.  

The Czech lords who met this dismal end included some of the leading noblemen of the land.  Among them were the 74-year-old scholar and writer Václav Budovec of Budov and the traveler Kryštof Harant of Polžice, as well as the celebrated physician and professor of Charles University Jan Jesenius, who conducted the first public autopsy in the Bohemian Lands.  

Václav Budovec of Budov

Kryštof Harant of Polžice

 Jan Jesenius

The dreadful and sorry spectacle lasted from five o'clock in the morning until one o'clock in the afternoon.  The heads of twelve of those executed were then hung in iron baskets from the parapet of the Old Town Bridge Tower as a warning to others, six facing the Old Town and six facing the Lesser Town.  When permission was given for the heads to be taken down ten years later, relatives and friends buried them at an unknown site.  They are said to be interred in the walls of the Church of Our Lady before Týn, or perhaps somewhere in the Church of St. Saviour's in Old Town.  

Church of Our Lady before Týn

Church of St. Saviour's 

According to legend, each year on the day of their death, the 21st of June, the ghosts of the executed gather at the clock and check that it is working properly.  If it is telling the time precisely, they are satisfied that the Bohemian lands are prospering, but if the clock is broken, they return to their eternal resting places sad sand dejected.